ATLANTA, Ga. – June 28, 2018 – The application period is underway for a tuition-free program that will connect Atlanta-area business owners with training, coaching and mentorships designed to help entrepreneurs grow their companies.

The program is called Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC). ICCC provides business education, marketing assistance and strategic planning support for businesses that have a presence in or near urban or economically underserved communities.

The program is offered tuition-free due to financial support from Regions Bank. ICCC is not limited to Regions customers. Rather, business owners across Atlanta and throughout Georgia are encouraged to apply regardless of where they bank.

Bill Linginfelter, Atlanta Market Executive for Regions, has seen ICCC make a powerful difference in other cities. Now, he says, it’s Atlanta’s turn.

“Immediately when the program begins, business owners from a variety of backgrounds recognize there’s something of great value that they’re going to take away from this,” Linginfelter said. “This is not your typical ‘Let me go get better at what I do’-type of program. This is deeply meaningful and strikes a chord in the hearts of the people in a way that I see very rarely.”

Indeed, ICCC is a high-impact, interactive program that will culminate in Atlanta on September 12 with an all-day, intense education event at the Loudermilk Conference Center. Experts scheduled to participate include Dr. Steve Bookbinder, a nationally sought-after consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies on workforce and leadership effectiveness issues. Additionally, Tiffany White of the University of Illinois, Susan Perkins of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Dean Derrick Collins of the Chicago State University College of Business will lead in-depth discussions on turning business aspirations into successful, workable strategies.

“Think of the program as a mini-MBA on steroids,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit organization that launched the ICCC outreach as a way to level the playing field for small-business owners in large cities and economically underserved communities.

“This is about creating inclusive prosperity,” Grossman added. “Often, the small-business owners we serve have never had a coach or a mentor. They know their product or service very well. But they need insights in terms of creating a marketing plan, developing a long-term strategic plan, accessing capital, or other operational challenges. That’s where we come in. What we do is help remove those barriers, help them become more competitive, and give them the tools to create good-paying jobs, grow revenue at a faster rate, create wealth, and help sustain the community as well as their own families and employees.”

Grossman said since the program started in 2005, more than 1,700 businesses have participated in ICCC events across the country. Those businesses have since raised a collective $1.5 billion in capital while creating nearly 16,000 jobs.

“This is top-of-the-line education, but it’s important for business owners to apply as soon as possible if they want to join others in benefitting from this program,” said Tiffany Kirk, Community Affairs Manager for Regions Bank in Atlanta. “This is available to companies from a wide range of backgrounds and industries. We want to have a strong, diverse class of participants. And when a program like this is offered tuition free, there really is no reason not to apply.”

ICCC personnel will review applications and contact each business owner individually to discuss the program and its criteria. Companies accepted into the program will have access not only to the Sept. 12 education event, but also to webinars and follow-up education. Further, a national ICCC conference will be offered in Boston in November for companies ready to move to the next level and make pitches to capital providers and potential investors.

Business owners take part in interactive training discussions during a Regions-sponsored ICCC event in Memphis.

“Over time, we’ve seen where 71 percent of all businesses that participate in this program will get capital within a year, and 80 percent will get capital within two years,” Grossman said.

But it’s not just about capital. It’s about creating successful, sustainable companies that support vibrant communities.

“As a community affairs manager, I know stronger communities help everybody,” Kirk added. “When you’ve got solid business owners in the community that are increasing the number of available jobs, that leads to a healthier workforce. We see less crime in our communities when local businesses do well. We see more investments coming to our communities when businesses do well. This is a great way for us to create what we call ‘shared value’ for everybody.”

Linginfelter agreed that ICCC essentially offers a seat at the table for more business owners to share in the prosperity that a healthy economy creates.

“We have a quality of life in metro Atlanta that’s already pretty solid,” he said. “What we can offer through this program is a chance for more people to grow into that quality of life and to help us improve Atlanta as a place to live, work and play because you are providing good, well-paying, quality jobs. When you talk about leveling the playing field, it gives everybody that can get into this program an opportunity to grow stronger.”

Business owners can apply through the ICCC Atlanta website. Applications are due August 20. Additional information on program criteria is on the main ICCC website at Further, a video showing ICCC in action can be found on Regions’ YouTube channel.

“Frankly, this is something that is a no-brainer if you’re a small-business owner,” Linginfelter concluded. “I’ve seen the quality of this program first-hand. You’ll come away not only with one major ‘aha moment,’ but probably several major ‘aha moments’ that you can turn around and apply to your business. The application deadline of August 20 will be here soon, and we are already seeing strong interest. So we encourage people to apply early and make sure they have a chance to participate.”